- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

BERLIN (AP) - Richard A. “Dick” O’Regan, who covered some of the biggest stories of the Cold War in a 39-year career as a reporter and executive for The Associated Press, has died. He was 95.

O’Regan died at a hospital in Geneva on Monday after suffering a heart attack, according to his son, Kevin.

Born in Boston on July 15, 1919, O’Regan launched his journalism career as a teenager working for newspapers in Britain. As he recalled in a 2008 interview, he obtained his first reporting job in the United States by witnessing a tragedy: Early in World War II, O’Regan decided to move to the United States and en route saw a Nazi U-Boat torpedo a British Navy vessel.

O’Regan’s ship helped rescue some of the British sailors, and he wrote an eyewitness account - without any place to print it. Upon docking in Philadelphia, he ran into a reporter from the Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper and offered him the story. The newspaper took not only the story, he recalled, but “to my utter surprise they offered me a job as a reporter on the spot. I was 20.”

O’Regan worked at that newspaper until 1942, when he took a job with the United Press in New York putting together the daily dispatches on the war in Europe. In March 1945, AP hired him away to do the same thing, and soon sent him to Germany to cover the aftermath of the war. His first big story was the death of Gen. George S. Patton Jr., who less than a year earlier had helped lead the U.S. Third Army to victory.

He became the AP’s chief of bureau in Vienna in 1950 and was one of the few Western reporters allowed to visit Hungary and Romania in 1953 following the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

In 1955, he returned to Frankfurt, where he served 11 years as chief of bureau, overseeing news and business in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. He expanded AP’s German language operations, making the German service among AP’s biggest news operations.

From his various posts, he helped cover the rebirth of Western Europe from the ruins of World War II, the Berlin airlift, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Hungarian revolution of 1956, and the confrontation between U.S. and Soviet troops at Checkpoint Charlie.

“It was a scary moment, I recall, when I stood at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, watching American and Russian tanks only yards apart leveling their guns at each other after the Russians had tried to bar Americans from entering the communist quarter,” he said in the 2008 interview. “It was a moment in the history of the Cold War that was almost as dangerous as the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later.”

O’Regan became AP’s London bureau chief in 1966, and in 1977 he was named director of AP operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He was based in Switzerland, where he worked until his retirement in 1984.

Claude E. Erbsen, retired AP vice president and director of world services, said O’Regan served as a “wonderful mentor” to him after they met in London in 1970.

“He was deeply committed to AP values and a thoughtful and supportive mentor to a generation of AP staffers,” Erbsen said.

In his 2008 interview, O’Regan said he always strove to be an objective observer of the world.

“I personally don’t believe that AP is any place for a campaigning journalist or a commentator,” he said. “I think it’s for those journalists who believe that facts - and unadulterated facts - are the important things to communicate, and this is so that people can better understand the complicated world in which they live.”

He said if given the chance he’d do it all over again.

“In my next reincarnation,” he said, “I plan to find the nearest AP bureau and apply for a job.”

O’Regan is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Ann Hill; two sons; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral will be held in Geneva on Friday.


Biographical material in this story was written by former AP writer Larry Heinzerling in New York. Associated Press Writer David Rising contributed to this report from Berlin.

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